Polestar: How Volvo's EV performance brand will take on Tesla and AMG
This story originally said that customers couldn't outright buy a
Polestar, but the company now says that it's not ruling that out. The
focus, however, seems to be on online ordering and the subscription
program. by: Jordan Golson SHANGHAI, China - Three years ago, Volvo's renaissance began with the release of the new XC90 SUV.
It was made possible by a multi-billion dollar infusion of cash by
Geely, the Chinese company that acquired Volvo from Ford. That's was
followed by the S90 sedan, V90 wagon, and, most recently, the volume-selling Volvo XC60. More cars, including the new XC40 compact SUV, are on the way - but there is still much left to be written of the Volvo story.
next chapter starts tonight, here in Shanghai, with Volvo's
transformation of Polestar - its longtime sporty nameplate - into a
standalone brand focused on sporty cars with advanced electrified
powertrains as well as a full-throated embrace of purchasing cars via a
subscription-model. Polestar is also something of a statement about
where Volvo thinks the entire auto industry is headed.
Three cars are being announced today. First is the aptly-named Polestar 1, limited-production, plug-in hybrid,
600-horsepower grand tourer based on Volvo's Scalable Platform
Architecture, the same as Volvo's new-generation 60- and 90-series cars.
Production will begin in mid-2019, and will be followed by a
fully-electric, midsize sedan Polestar 2 before the end of 2019.
Finally, Polestar 3 will be a larger SUV-type EV.
perhaps more interesting than the cars, which are still a few years
off, is the sales process. Polestar's vehicles will all be ordered
online - and while it originally sounded like you couldn't buy one in
the traditional way, at least not officially, Polestar is apparently
willing to take offers. But instead, the company seems focused on
offering two- and three-year all-inclusive subscriptions for its
vehicles. Insurance, maintenance, and depreciation are built into a (not yet disclosed) monthly fee.
entire Polestar process can be done online, from scheduling test drives
to customization and ordering - though there will also be "Polestar
Spaces" around the world, offering potential customers a place to go and
ask questions of Polestar employees and test drive the vehicles.
Notably, they will not be located within existing Volvo showrooms. It
all sounds very Tesla-esque.
seen similar subscription-type offerings from a number of brands
including Cadillac and Porsche, but Polestar seems to be the first
company that will forgo both traditional dealerships and
the ability to typically "purchase" cars. Polestar says that once the
initial subscription period is up, the car will be returned by the
customer and sent out again on a cheaper pre-owned subscription.
The company says it is trying to eliminate the hassle from the car buying and
ownership process. Scheduled maintenance will be handled
concierge-style, with the car picked up from the customer when it's
convenient. A number of other services will be offered for an additional
fee, including the temporary rental of other Volvo vehicles both
domestically and internationally, car wash and valet services, or the temporary installation of a roof box or ski-rack.
vehicle maintenance will be performed at "select Volvo retailers," so
they aren't left entirely out of the picture. But, thanks to the
concierge pickup and drop-off services, Polestar subscribers won't ever
need to step foot in a dealership if they don't want to.
Like with the Tesla Model 3,
Polestar plans to offer a phone-as-key mode, allowing the concierge
service (or anyone one might wish to loan the car to) easy access to the
car without the owner needing to be present.
For a half-decade, Polestar has been to Volvo what AMG is to Mercedes, or M to BMW. Several Volvo models, including the S60 sedan and V60 wagon
have fully-fledged Polestar customizations, with few parts of the car
left untouched in a quest for increased performance. The latest
90-series of cars, including the XC90 and V90 have more limited Polestar
customizations available, including the reprogramming of engine ECUs and tweaked badging and more aggressive looks. Volvo Polestar Engineered Products will continue to exist.
was a Swedish customization and racing shop when it first partnered
with Volvo in the mid-90's, but things got a lot more interesting in
2015 when Volvo acquired Polestar's performance operations outright,
leaving the race team - which competes in the Scandinavian Touring Car
Championship under the Cyan Racing banner - separate. Now Polestar is
becoming its own wholly owned Volvo subsidiary, following in the
footsteps of Mercedes which released the AMG-branded GT sports car a couple years ago.
new Polestar Production Center is under construction in Chengdu, China.
With an expected completion date of mid-2018, Polestar is capitalized
with a 640 million
euro joint venture between Volvo Car Group and Zhejiang Geely Holdings.
Polestar will operate as a subsidiary of Volvo Car Group.
Chengdu Production Center will also include the first Polestar Space,
where potential customers can test the Polestar vehicles on a private
test track, including taking the cars "to extremes not possible on
public roads." More Polestar Spaces are expected to open beginning in
many ways, Polestar is a shot across the bow directly at Tesla. Though
its first cars won't get to customers before early 2019 at the earliest,
the order book for the Polestar 1 opens today - and there are decent
odds that if you were to order a Polestar 1 and a Tesla Model 3 today,
you might even get them around the same time.